If the freshly painted walls of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum could talk, they’d tell what life was like for immigrant workers during the early 1900s. The original settlement home, leased by Addams and Ellen G. Starr, served as a place where laborers could come for services.
An expansion of the museum—the first renovation in 50 years—stresses to visitors that Hull-House residents were individuals with talents and goals. “There’s more to Hull-House than a victorious summary about how a privileged woman from Cedarville helped the poor,” museum director Lisa Lee says.
Museumgoers can discover this in added exhibits, access to rooms that were once closed to the public and never-before-seen artifacts, including Addams’ Nobel Peace Prize.
In exhibits like “A Day in the Life,” you can read about Hilda Satt Polacheck, a Polish factory worker who went on to write the nonfiction account I Came a Stranger: The Story of a Hull-House Girl, and Mexican migrant Jesus Torres, who became an accomplished artist.
Other highlights include documentary photographer Wallace Kirkland’s shots of immigrant workers at home, paintings by immigrants and the Sounds Like History gallery, where vivid journal entries have been recorded to capture the feel of Halsted Street in the early 1900s.
“We want our guests to learn an accurate history by using more than sight to get a sense of the Hull-House Museum,” Lee says. “So it’s perfectly okay to touch artifacts in Addams’s bedroom.” That excludes her Nobel, which will be locked up—but still viewable—in the bedroom.